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The country’s largest seaport, Genoa is the cornerstone of Italy’s maritime heritage. There’s a lot of history here, but recent regeneration has seen the city develop a line-up of modern attractions. The shopping and dining scene is excellent, and the aquarium – home to 5,000 species of marine life – is one of the largest in Europe.
Genoa still has an old soul, however, with a sprawling knot of alleyways and historic piazzas making up its old town, all overlooked by a medieval lighthouse. With impressive links to its past like the UNESCO-honoured group of palaces, Palazzi dei Rolli, it’s not hard to see how Genoa earned the nickname, ‘the Proud One’.
Genoa is the gateway to some of Liguria's prettiest seaside towns and villages, so it’s perfect for pairing with a beach resort for a multi-centre holiday. We recommend the Cinque Terre, Portofino and Portovenere.
Genoa’s prime spot on Liguria’s coast makes it a great place to enjoy the region’s beaches from. Liguria has more Blue Flag beaches than anywhere else in Italy, from tiny hidden coves to pristine stretches of sand backed by cafes. Genoa is also the gateway to some of the country’s most picture-perfect towns, including sophisticate Portofino pulling in celebrity crowds and the famous Cinque Terre, a sprinkle of pastel-coloured villages poised daintily on hillsides. Made to explore on foot, the villages are some of the most mesmerising in Italy, framed against the deep blue of the coast.
Genoa is an all year-round destination, with a consistent tourist trade throughout the year thanks to the city’s cruise terminal. From late spring to early autumn, the city is at its best, with many shops and restaurants open until late, and climate idea for exploring the Ligurian coastline. Winters are wet and mild, bringing a medieval-themed Christmas market to the city in December, plus there are plenty of indoor attractions to enjoy. However, shops, restaurants and some attractions close during winter so plan accordingly.
Genoa has thousands of dining options, ranging from tiny bakeries hidden away down the lanes of the centro storico, to fine dining establishments set in grand hotels. For an authentic flavour, look out for ravioli di branzino (pasta with seabass) or farinata (a light chickpea pancake), and finish with Genoise cake – a light sponge often flavoured with liqueurs. If you are seeking a proper tipple, you’ll find plenty of wine cellars and bars in the city, serving up delicious Ligurian and regional wines.
Genoa has earned its nickname la Superba (‘the proud one’) for a fascinating history that left centuries’ worth of culture and landmarks. There’s evidence that traces Genoa’s past as far back as the 5th century BC, and the city saw Greek and Byzantine occupation before joining Venice as an independent city-state in the 12th century, becoming powerful in the Mediterranean for is trade and shipbuilding. Genoa attracted many artists and architects during the Renaissance, including the likes of Caravaggio and Rubens. Many of its beautiful palazzi were designed by Galeazzo Alessi, and today, the city is famed for its art, architecture and culture.